San Francisco

Earlier this week, I was in San Francisco for the American Chemical Society meeting, which was held downtown, in the Moscone Center. On the last day, I took a bit of time for myself to wander around and see a little bit of the city. I am a book buff, and so I searched out some book stores. I started my day by finding a comic book store, Things From Another World. There is only one comic book store in Santa Fe, and they tend to have a smaller selection. TFAW had a good selection of graphic novels/trade paperbacks, which is what I buy as they are just easier to put on a bookshelf. I ended up getting The Freshmen and Powers Vol 5: Anarchy. Powers has been a great series so far, and The Freshmen looks very entertaining.

I then headed to a couple of bookstores around Market Street, Cody’s Books and Stacey’s Bookstore. Both specialize in new books. I tend to look for a few different but consistent things whenever I find a new bookstore: Science and Basque books. Neither had any books on Basques I could find, and the Science selection was ok, but not great. Both stores were pleasant, but didn’t quite satisfy my book cravings.

So, I headed down Sansome Street toward a Basque restaurant — more on that later. I was in the mood for some coffee, which is easy to find in downtown SF — as long as you want Starbucks. There literally seems to be a Starbucks on every other corner. I did find something else, though, a place called Morning Brew Coffee and Tea. I got my standard vanilla latte and they did a good job. It wasn’t overly sweet or bitter. Very nice coffee.

I continued down Sansome until it met Columbus and right about there I ran into the San Francisco Brewing Company. I noticed it because it was the only building that had steam coming out of a pipe on the side. I had their Shanghai Pale Ale, which was very good. Not too hoppy (though I tend to like hoppy beer), so it was a little lighter than most IPAs. And the atmosphere reminded me of the College Inn Pub and Big Time in Seattle, with a wood decor that was a bit worn. Highly recommended. I got a souvenir glass to remember the occasion.

Just down the street from the SF Brewing Company, I found a cool bookstore, City Lights Books. It is one of those stores where the bookshelves are shoved in every corner and books are everywhere. It reminded me of a smaller scale Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle. They had a good diversity and selection of books and I found two that I picked up: Great Physicists and Time of the Rabies. The first describes the lives and work of 30 famous physicists and the second is by Robert Laxalt, probably the greatest Basque-American author. This short novella is supposed to be about a rabies epidemic that hits a Basque sheep-rancher. It should be interesting. Any book fans in SF should check out City Lights Books.
I continued on down Columbus towards my goal, which was right around Union and Columbus. That was the Iluna Basque restaurant and it’s spin-off Eguna Basque. These names mean “Basque Night” and “Basque Day”. Accordingly, Eguna Basque is a cafe specializing in sandwiches and is open from 7AM to 5PM. I stopped by there first for a late lunch and had the Stuffed Croissant, which was a croissant sandwich with ham and swiss. It was warmed and served with a small side salad. It was very reasonably priced ($5.50), especially compared to the paninis we were getting in Union Square. The decor is a little spartan, but still very nice. Some of the tables are made from old wine barrels, which is pretty cool. And there were photographs on the wall as well.

I walked off some of the sandwich before heading to Iluna Basque for a small dinner. It’s decor is a bit more elegant, reflecting the night-time crowd it draws. I had a beer, some Marinated Lamb Skewers with Rosemary, and a selection of Basque Cheeses with Membrillo, for $20 exactly (plus tax and tip). The lamb was very good; the rosemary really added to the flavor. And the cheeses were excellent. That, with some bread, was a very filling dinner. I ate at the bar, though there were a number of tables for two plus a family-style table in the center of the room. None of the meals, though, are family style. They are all either tapas or individual entres. They had some variants on Basque staples, such as squid in its own ink (on Spanish rice), piquillo peppers stuff with cod, and various fish dishes. People who eat seafood would do well here, and there seemed to be enough purely vegetarian choices for those who eat neither seafood nor meat.

Afterwards, I headed back to my hotel along Powell Street. I stopped in a Borders, just to hang out for a moment, but didn’t see anything that really caught my eye. Overall, though, it was an excellent day spent exploring some of the city. I had no real disappointments in any of the places I stopped. And the views of San Francisco down the rolling streets are always incredible.

Like ants…

I just went to Richland, WA, for the second time in two months, both times for work (visiting PNNL). Last time, it was for a conference and, for an excursion, the organizers took us to some wineries. I was pleasantly surprised by the area. I had visited a couple of times when I went to school in Seattle and was always struck by how remote it was. But, the area seems more pleasant to me than it did back then. A few of us walked along the river to a restaurant called Anthony’s. The walk was very nice. They’ve done a great job of making the river walk very nice, with lots of parks and apartments and such along the way. And the wineries were good too. I’m no expert, as my wife can tell you, so don’t take my word on the quality of the wines, but to my taste, they were good.

My brother and his family live in (relatively) nearby Pullman and my best friend Bob and his family live in Moscow, so it always nice to visit them during these trips to Richland. Dave and Shelley’s twins are growing up fast and Bob and Rhonda’s son, Owen, is now mobile and getting into everyting. It was a great visit. And I think I got Bob addicted to Fullmetal Alchemist. 🙂

One thing I’m always struck by when flying around is how, no matter where I am, it seems that the landscape I’m flying over is just covered with the marks of human activity. Whether the cities or the rural farming areas, it seems we’ve marked every square inch of the planet. In some ways, it is always very interesting to see the “colonies” we, as humans, have made everywhere; it’s like watching ants from high above. But, I’m always a little saddened too by how everywhere I look from the sky is covered in the markings of human activity. There are rodes through the mountains, fields in any open space, and subdivisions everywhere. I guess this is just part of progress and growth. But it always strikes me when I’m looking down at how we’re like ants, covering every inch we can.

Picasso’s War by Russell Martin


One of my favorite pasttimes is reading. While I never feel quite up to writing a full review of the books I read, I do like to at least write down my thoughts, so that I can remember better what I read. From time to time, I’m going to share the thoughts I have on some of the books I’ve read. Today, I’m posting my thoughts on two books I read a while ago, Picasso’s War and A Whale Hunt.

Started reading: ~05/01/03
Finished reading: 05/26/03
Notes written: 05/28/03

This book tells the story of Guernica, the famous painting by Picasso. It tells the whole story, starting with the events that lead to the creation of the painting and following Guernica as it moves from museum to museum, becoming ever more the important symbol it has become today. In the telling of the story of Guernica, we come to understand better the current political climate in Spain and the Basque Country, and why things are still so difficult in the region, why some things are so difficult to forgive.

Any history of the painting Guernica necessarily starts with the town Gernika and the Spanish Civil War. This book does an amazing job of recounting that market day when the town was destroyed by German bombers, when the fleeing citizens where gunned down by machine gunners flying overhead. A sense of outrage filled me as I read the recreation of that day, based on accounts of people that were there, an outrage that left me angry at the governments that did this, that let this happen by ignoring events in Spain. Even though I was only reading about it nearly 65 years later, I still felt an anger that can only pale to that felt by the people that went through this, who’s grandparents were there, and it helped me understand why people are still angry today.

After the bombing comes Picasso’s creation. The book follows the efforts of the Spanish Republic to get Picasso to paint something for its exhibit at the world fair in Paris and the creative process that led to Guernica. We follow the painting from Picasso’s studio, to the world’s fair, to New York where it is held in safe keeping until democracy returns to Spain, and finally to Madrid, where it currently resides. We learn that efforts to get the painting to the Basque Country, to be displayed near the site that inspired it, have been met with rejection. That this symbolic act of reconciliation between the Basques and the Spanish government has yet to occur.

The story of Guernica is very much a history of the modern Basque Country. Guernica has become the modern symbol of the horrors of warfare, resonanting not only with the Basque people, but also with the Japonese, the Germans, and other peoples who have first hand witnessed these horrors. It is a telling fact that the US asked a reproduction of Guernica at the UN to be covered when the resolutions on military action in Iraq were being brought to a vote. This painting symbolizes all that is horrible and aweful in war, all of the suffering that occurs. In telling the story of the painting, Picasso’s War reminds us that all wars result in suffering, and that forgiveness is not easy.

A Whale Hunt by Robert Sullivan


Started reading: ~02/27/01
Finished reading: ~03/14/01
Notes written: 03/27/01

This book describes the observations and experiences of a journalist who decides to spend a significant amount of time with the Makah as they prepare for their hunt of the grey whale. Significant is something like at least a year, or so it seems (I don’t think it is ever explicitly stated). He gets to know the tribal members, especially those directly involved in the hunt, and meets many of the other people involved, including the protesters. The book focuses on Wayne Johnson, who is the captain of the hunting crew and who is also the person that seems to have the most to gain from the hunt in the sense of what the hunt stands for, from a tribal perspective: Wayne is, in some sense, lost, and it is through the hunt and the responsibilities he has during the hunt that he attempts to find his place in the tribe and the outside world, much in the same way that the tribe is attempting through the hunt in the first place.

We meet many people of the tribe, most of whom are in favor of the hunt, though the tribal politics rears its head and ostracizes some of the members. The story begins when the tribe first announces they are going to hunt a whale, and goes through their efforts of finding the right kind of gun to do a humane kill, of building a canoe, of training for the hunt, and of actually hunting the whale. Not much is said of why they are using the gun, a point that made many people feel that the hunt was not traditional. It seems that the Makah wanted to make the hunt as humane as possible, and the traditional way would have been to harpoon the whale and attach floats that would slowly weaken the whale until it died of blood loss and exhaustion. So, while the hunt was not conducted in the most traditional form, it wasn’t done so because they wanted to keep the whale suffering to a minimum. In addition, it is mentioned that the Makah always adapted to new materials that they encountered that helped in their hunts.

In the middle of the story, the author makes a pilgrimage to Mexico, to a bay where the grey whales are known to migrate to and where they birth. During this trip he learns quite a bit about the whales and their relationship with humans, about the white hunting trade that occurred there. He meets some of the protesters who are based in California and we learn a bit about why they are fighting the hunt.

Overall, we are learning about how the tribe learns from the hunt, from their efforts to prepare and from the final hunt itself. They attend meetings with other whale hunting groups in the world, and invite them to the reservation. They have a big feast after the hunt in which many people, mostly other tribes, come and celebrate. The hunt is mostly viewed as a restoration of their customs and as an affirmation of their individuality as a culture. At times, one feels that part of the purpose of the hunt is just to be defiant, to tell the world that they are tired of being told what to do and that they are going to do what they want. However, they do get all of the legal permissions that they need to conduct the hunt.

In the end, it is hard to say what they accomplished. Certainly, at least temporarily, the tribal members felt more pride in being Makah. The children were proud of their ancestry, they wanted to participate in a hunt. The world learned something, though not necessarily positive, about the Makah. And Wayne Johnson was able to accomplish something, to do something for his people, to find a place for himself, at least for a time. Only time will tell if this will be the beginning of a mini-renaissance for the Makah, but it seems that it at least has the potential to be so.

NFL-Idaho Fantasy Football Draft!

Last weekend we had our fantasy football draft for the NFL-Idaho league. I’m not sure how I turned out. We’ll see soon enough. Fortunately, I have a strong set of keepers, including Peyton Manning, Larry Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Shaun Alexander. But, being last to draft in the first few rounds (due to my winning the championship last year, so no complaints, really), most of the really good guys were gone before I got my first pick. But, I did grab Chad Johnson, much to the dismay of my little brother, so I should have strong WRs and RBs. But, my #2 QB is Kurt Warner, who may or may not have a great year. We’ll see.

Anyways, the NFL season is almost here! I’m excited for another year of fantasy football! And I’m ready to kick some ass!

The image is the logo of my team, Blasphemy.

Blah, blah, blah… I've got the blahs.

%d bloggers like this: